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Confusion, conflict hold up Blackduck mayor position

For more than a month, the mayor's seat on the Blackduck City Council has been vacant when former Mayor Jason Riggs resigned. The council had accepted his resignation at the regular April meeting and approved the resolution May 14 close to the end of Monday's meeting.

Vice Mayor Daryl Lundberg had written a letter of intention, stating that he would be willing to fill the vacancy left by Riggs for the remainder of the former mayor's term, due to expire Dec. 31.

When it came to the resolution appointing Lundberg as mayor, questions and confusion rose among council members.

"As mayor, don't you have to resign from the council?" asked council member Scott Palmer.

"No," said council member Cory Veazey. "I read all that. We can vote it in and then accept the vacancy of his council seat."

"It just seems backwards," said Palmer.

Lundberg then asked Palmer if he hadn't gone through the same thing when he took over as mayor when former mayor Bob Gannon resigned.

"Yes, but I had to resign from the council before I could be mayor. That's why it seems backward to me." Palmer explained. "It doesn't really matter to me as long as the results are the same. We can do them in order," he added. "We can appoint anybody."

Veazey responded by telling the council that, "No, we don't to vote on it. It doesn't have to be a resolution. It's written wrong," he said, talking about the resolution appointing Lundberg to serve the remainder of the mayor's term. "This is all written wrong. It doesn't follow what has been written by the League."

Even so, the council passed the resolution appointing Lundberg as mayor for the remainder of the resigning mayor's term.

The next resolution that seemed to cause a stir was a resolution authorizing the city to temporarily vacate the term of an exciting council member upon his request.

"What does temporarily vacate mean?" asked Palmer.

"We have to have a vote because his term is not half completed. It would have to be an at-large vote," Veazey explained. "I don't know why it would say temporary."

Palmer said that while he knew what they were doing, he couldn't figure out why the resolution would say temporary.

"I am under the understanding that if I didn't want to run for mayor once this term is done, I can have my council seat back," said Lundberg.

To which Veazey replied, "No. Once you've resigned your seat, you resigned your seat."

"That's what I interpreted from what I read from the League's website," Lundberg said.

"When I called down to the League," Veazey said, "that's a pretty cut and dried thing. If you resign your seat as councilor, we have to go out to the city at-large for vote to replace your seat. We can put a temporary person in your seat until that vote happens, being as it's coming up here in a few months in a regular vote. It's either that or a special election."

More discussion ensued as to whether or not Lundberg could temporarily vacate his seat, take over as mayor until the end of the year and then take his seat on the council back again.

In a letter dated May 3, Blackduck City Attorney Joe Boyle explained about whether Minnesota state law permits the council to vote to have the vice mayor fill the resigning mayor's term.

"(1) an appointment of a mayor to fill the existing term of the resigning mayor through Dec. 31, 2012;

"(2) a temporary vacating of an existing city councilor's term upon his request;

"(3) a temporary appointment to fill the vacated existing city council term ending pursuant to Minn. Stat. §412.02, subd 2b" Boyle's letter stated.

It went on to say that, "As to permitting the appointee to the temporary vacancy to serve until the elected council member is available, Minn. Stat. §412.02, subd 2b states in relevant part:

"...the council may, after it has by resolution declared a vacancy to exit, fill the vacancy at a regular or special council meeting for the remainder of the unexpired term, or until the person is again able to resume duties and attend council meetings, whichever is earlier."

Filling in for City Administrator Karin Elhard was Blackduck City Maintenance Supervisor Bob Klug Jr. who asked, "Do you want me to call Karin and ask her why that says temporary?" He received no response from any of the councilors.

The resolutions in question by council members, including the wording thereof, were prepared by Boyle on behalf of the city.

LMCIT Information Resources Manager Jeannette Bach said in a telephone interview that Lundberg could indeed give up his council seat temporarily to fill in the mayor's seat, after which time, he can retain his councilor's seat if he chooses not to run for mayor.

"It's all a matter of interpretation," she said. "The city's attorney is the one who puts together the resolutions and is aware of the legalities regarding this issue."

"I'd almost be inclined to table the vote until we get it clarified," Veazey said and Palmer agreed. "I don't see why it's written that way," Veazey said.

Following more discussion, the council tabled the resolution to temporarily vacate Lundberg's term as well as the resolution temporarily appointing someone to fill his term.